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|GU Xingqing 顾杏卿|
Gu Xingqing in Belgium in 1917, from his memoirs (best available quality)
|Period||20th century (early Chinese Republic)|
|Subjects||World War I|
Gu Xingqing of Baoshan (Shanghai), was a student in China when the British began recruiting labourers for the Chinese Labour Corps in Europe in 1917-1918 (CLC). Gu signed up for the Chinese labour corps as an interpreter. Like many other young graduates in China, he regarded service with the CLC as a one-off chance to travel and a springboard to further studies in the U.K. After the war Gu returned to China, from where he left to the U.S.A. for advanced studies. In 1923, Gu returned to China with an M.A. in Arts and Sciences.
In 1937 the Commercial Press in Changsha published Gu’s memoirs on his work as an interpreter during the war in Europe. Gu’s book went through two reprints (1938). It was never reprinted since. Gu’s book yet is the only book-length account on the First World War by a Chinese national known to exist.
In his memoirs Gu tells the story of his journey from his home-village in China to Europe, his work in Belgium and France and his return home. Although published nearly two decades after the events, Gu’s account proves to be highly accurate in terms of dates and events. Gu’s main source in writing his book were the personal notes he had taken in Europe, but which he lost during the Japanese raid on the Zhabei district in Shanghai on 28 January 1932.
Published under the Japanese occupation of China, Gu wanted his book to encourage and admonish the Chinese people. The moral lesson of Gu’s book was that “labour” in war could equally contribute to final victory as did actual battle. Gu commended the example of the Chinese labourers to his fellow-countrymen, unable to resist the Japanese by military means alone.
Gu's book was translated in Dutch — the first translation ever of Gu's book — and published as a companion volume to the 2010 exhibit on the Chinese labourers during the First World War at In Flanders Fields Museum,Ypres (Belgium).
Notes and references
- 欧战工作回忆录 [Ouzhan Gongzuo Huiyilu], 长沙 [Changsha]：商务印书馆 [Shangwu Yinshuguan = Commercial Press]，1938 (3rd print). With forewords by Zhu Jingnong [朱经农] and Pan Gongzhan [潘公展]. Portions from this were first printed in the Chinese journal Youth Reading [读书青年] of 1936 as Notes on the War in France and Belgium [ 法比参战记].
- Mijn Herinneringen als Tolk voor de Chinese Arbeiders in WO I with an introduction by Philip Vanhaelemeersch and Dominiek Dendooven, in collaboration with Herman Sterckx and Gwynnie Hagen, Tielt, Lannoo, 2010, ISBN 978-90-209-9096-6
- Dieter Dujardin, “Expo brengt vergeten Chinezen in beeld”, in: Het Laatste Nieuws (27 April 2010)
- Cathérine Vuylsteke, “De Grote Oorlog door Chinese ogen. 'Sjouwers voor de oorlog' in het Ieperse Flanders Fields werpt licht op onbekend stukje oorlogsverleden" , in: De Morgen, 26 April 2010.